Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 28th, 2015

What kinds of a Revolution the Lebanese are Ready for?

Why do many Lebanese let themselves and their country be buried under trash?

Why is the general worldview/behavior – except for few individuals and movements who are trying to deconstruct it – quietist, conformist, and ostrich or zombie like?

Why isn’t there a collective upheaval that would gather all Lebanese?

Is Lebanon ready for a revolution?

These are questions my Lebanese and non-Lebanese students ask, questions I keep on asking myself, questions that do not lend themselves to an easy answer, but engaging with them may facilitate critical assessment of the prospects for a sustainable change.

I will certainly not implicate myself in entrenching the neo-orientalist/neo-colonialist caricature of Southwestern Asian societies as incapable of self-government, and Southwestern Asian populations as uncivilized and backward, with a genetic pool incapable of mutation, stuck in mythical dark ages.

One answer could be the following, as Patricio Aylwin Azocar states:

“Ordinary men and women may often feel unmotivated to exert their citizenship, either because they cannot tell the difference between the different alternatives, or because they have lost faith in the political classes, or because they feel that the really important issues are not in their power to decide”.

A second answer could be the deification of the political party, the sectarian community and the zaim.  (Actually all the Zaims have shrines)

As the well-known poet Adonis described it:

“the sacralisation that colors and creeps into politics, turning parliamentarians, ministers and other public servants into demi-gods, their ideologies into gospels and political parties into sects. Indeed, over the past decades, the legacy of multiple wars in Lebanon, including hypermnesia, and paradoxically the tabula rasa mentality and national strategy, have produced in the minds of a good many Lebanese the illusion that somehow “somebody” – the warlord, the zaim, the political party, the sectarian community/belonging – but not the State (or the embodiment of the common management of our diversity), can provide for ALL needs (if not now, certainly in the future)…”

So why make much effort to fulfill what used to be considered in practice (or are considered in the Constitution) the responsibilities of any citizen?

When human beings become ICONS, such as most Lebanese political leaders and public figures, they cultivate and entrench political iconolatry, and that iconolatry is internalized by the common people.

A third answer could be agoraphobia, or the fear of leaving one’s comfort zone: the home, the family, the job, the religious institution, the past with its glories or painful memories, and even, the trash.

This type of phobia is like a prison of one’s own making with invisible lines that cannot be crossed. People who are afraid become permanently disabled, dependent on others’ assistance.

Where does this fear come from? Non-formal and formal education, media propaganda, traumas in the domestic sphere and war traumas…

Other answers could be easily defined and added.

The outcome would still be the same: a national disaster.

However, the time is not yet for defeatism. “If beyond hopelessness there is hope, I am hopeful” (Elias Khoury).

Hope because even if I believe most Lebanese are not ready for a revolution when this revolution is thought as a general upheaval à la Française or an Arab Spring type of revolution or even a Gandhi style revolution, change-making has already started.

Indeed, agents of dialogue, non-governmental organizations, academics, artists and activists, in Lebanon and in the Lebanese diaspora, have been contributing since the 1990s to raising awareness about the necessity of reforming the social-political system and of finding solutions to numerous crises such as the economic, environmental, cultural…

They have already started the desacralisation process.

(Mainly the militia leaders such as Nabih Berry, Walid Jumblat, Rafic Hariri, Samir Gea3ja3… who are still in control and ruling this rotten system)

What we are witnessing nowadays in Lebanon is one of the many physical manifestations of this desacralisation.

The next step would be to continue on expanding the process, while always keeping in mind the necessity of building dialogue platforms.

Desacralisation does not mean ‘getting rid of the iconodules, agoraphobics, ostriches and zombies’, but building alternatives (ideas and practices) where a unity in a diversity of voices would be reached.

Pushing someone who isn’t ready for change is traumatizing. It is neither successful nor humane. The contrary of building strength within and encouraging exploration that feels wanted and welcome when time arrives.

Street protests are certainly a must, but aren’t enough.

Non-formal and formal education should accompany the demonstrations, and short-term expectations should be coupled with long-term ones.

For the majority of Lebanese to understand what is the value of change, to be able to heal their wounds, to stop cushioning themselves against the rawness of life by staying in controlled boxes ‘safe’ from unwanted intrusion, to choose challenge and the unknown over the known, and to embrace constructive discomfort, time, patience, and multiple continuous knowledge productions and acts for peace, justice and equality are needed.

Lebanon’s road from denizenship (chattel mentality in practice) to citizenship is long, winding and full of detours.

We’ll get there eventually!

Note: What alternative worthy values may unite us?


The way I comprehend the current issues in Lebanon:

1. Hezbollah is comfortable attacking in 4 particular fronts that are related to the security and political stability of Lebanon: Israel, Islamist terrorist movements (Al Nousra and ISIS), securing the Lebanese borders from the onslaught of these extremist groups and supporting the army, and focusing on its security within Lebanon.

2. Hezbollah refused to get involved directly in the deep and hot potatoes of fassad (highway and systematic thievery of this militia political system), simply because it would hamper and alienate him in the rickety participation in this system

3. Hezbollah wished that the Tayyar of General Aoun would handle the fassad issues.

The Tayyar did a good job uncovering this endemic problems in the parliament and in the successive governments for years, until he realized that he is unable to carry out this struggle single headedly.

All the political parties united to handicap the Tayyar as representative of the second largest group of deputies in the parliament. Instead, the Tayyar changed direction toward the Constitution front.

4. The Youth movements finally decided to focus on the fassad.

5. Ironically, the Tayyar decided Not to open lines of communications, discussions and negotiation with the Youth movements in order to become a valuable expert in these hot files.

I’m left with this feeling that No political parties in Lebanon is serious about any kinds of reforms in the fassad front

Everybody decided to support science and climate change? Pope included

On June 18, Pope Francis issued the encyclical Laudato Si: On care for our common home.

The letter has been widely praised for supporting the science on climate change.

But it goes much further than many expected in documenting the phenomenal changes that our planet is undergoing, beyond climate.

And the story of how the Pope has integrated science and religion (not always the easiest of companions, let’s face it) indicates, to me at least, a profound shift in world view. (Paradigmatic shift on minding the sustainable issues for survival)

Patsy Z shared this link TED, September 24, 2015 ·
The case for climate action as a moral imperative.

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has been bringing together climate scientists, economists and scholars pretty much since Francis’ papacy began in March 2013.

My colleagues, professors Paul Crutzen, Veerabhadran Ramanathan and John Schellnhuber, have been part of a new level of dialogue between Earth system scientists and the Vatican.

In April of this year, I attended a one-day scientific workshop on the moral dimensions of climate change and sustainable humanity.

At that workshop, which included economist Jeffrey Sachs and Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University, Cardinal Peter Turkson reminded us that “we are traversing some of the planet’s most fundamental natural boundaries.”

Turkson was using language referring to research on planetary boundaries led by my group, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and carried out together with leading global sustainability scientists across the world.

First published in 2009 (and updated in a paper for Science in January), our work was initiated by growing alarm at the scale of human influence on Earth.

Indeed, humans, predominantly in wealthy nations that consume the most, are now the prime drivers of change in the Earth system.

We are altering the carbon, water and nitrogen cycles; we are changing the chemistry of the ocean. Only last week, researchers announced further evidence that we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction of life on Earth. (I had published the article on the 6th mass extinction many months ago)

Firmly grounded in this science, Pope Francis’ encyclical suggests — in line with our analysis — that planetary stewardship must now be the foundation of our values, beliefs and economic systems. It is a remarkable document on the moral imperative of climate action, as well as a call for a new journey of hope and dignity for all world citizens.

Again, these moral statements are surprisingly well aligned with scientific evidence. There is now mounting evidence that a grand transformation of our economic system will deliver both greater wellbeing for all and a sustainable future.

As several of us at the April meeting pointed out, it is the current economic model, known as business-as-usual — not sustainable transformation — that presents the high-risk path for humanity.

Business-as-usual stands little chance of delivering wellbeing to a world of perhaps 9 billion people by 2050. It is only by transforming to a sustainable world that Earth has a chance of continuing to support social and economic development to meet rapidly growing demands for health and wealth.

One of the ways to do that is to aim for zero emissions from fossil fuels by around the middle of the century. This is possible; the technology is available and investment in renewables is accelerating.

Pope Francis has made this careful intervention at a critical time. 2015 is unique.

In July, world leaders meet to discuss how to finance sustainable development. In September they meet again to agree on 17 global goals for development. And in December, they come together once more to hammer out a climate deal.

In April, the Earth League, a group of concerned scientists which I have the privilege of chairing, released the Earth Statement outlining the essential elements of a climate deal.

This has been endorsed by Desmond Tutu and members of the World Council of Churches and Religions for Peace. Religious leaders are mobilizing around these global environmental challenges.

2015 is a once-in-a-generation chance to overcome inertia and chart out a sustainable path for all.

The Pope’s intervention adds substantial weight to push for a more positive outcome than previous disappointments. Not least, because the window of opportunity is closing fast.




September 2015

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